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Behind the Art: Rob Wilson

Take a cursory glance around Neighborhood Goods’ debut store in Plano, TX, and you’ll notice the rather intriguing art we have on our walls. Beautiful, sure, but make no mistake: there are multiple layers at work here, with elements from our brands incorporated into each. Which relate to which, you ask? We’ll leave that to you to decide — or you could always ask Rob Wilson, the artist behind this series of specially commissioned illustrations.

“I left a career in corporate design about 8 years ago to focus more on illustration, Rob says, “although sometimes I have a hard time seeing the difference between the two, since they’re both about communication.” Rob cites his self-motivated work as the key to his continued success — “I’ve found that personal work actually leads to being hired” — but admits that he doesn’t really think of it as work, as he’s always drawn for pleasure.

When we commissioned Rob for the Neighborhood Goods pieces, it was approached much like a design brief: create some art to represent the brands, but keep the connection loose enough so that the art can stand on its own. When asked about how he approached the task, Rob says that the process is very similar to ones he was used to in the corporate design world. “Generally, it starts with doing research, so you have your research part, your on-an-airplane part, your thinking-in-the-shower part, your walking-around-thinking-about-things-while-you-walk-the-dog part. And I do a lot of sketches, working with pen and paper.” At this point in our conversation, Rob adjusts his laptop so that the camera shows us a huge stack of boxes in this apartment, and explains that they’re full of pens and paper, packed up ahead of a move. It’s a sizable collection. “If you’re a creative person, you generally have a lot of bias about what you like and what you don’t like,” he continues, returning the camera to its usual position. “I’ve tried to make each one of these things something I’d like personally as well — something I’d like to have, or give, or be happy if someone bought and put in their home. Something that has some meaning to it, I guess.”

To elaborate on this idea of deeper meaning, Rob takes us back to the turning point in his career, when he entered an Instagram-based competition run by Fab.com. “I’d done a drawing,” Rob recalls, “or an illustration, or a piece of art, or whatever you want to call it — ‘art’ sounds so pretentious, which is why I hate using the word — but it was of a view while I was looking out of a window in Greenpoint, New York, at an ex’s apartment, and I put a bird in it. The piece got accepted and was included in First Things First — a pop-up in Soho for New York Design Week.” Rob notes that, as part of the show, the drawing ended up being sold commercially, but it wasn’t created for commercial purposes. “I’d created it based on a very specific view, and I do that for a lot of my artwork; it’s based on what I know, or places I’ve been, or people I’ve known. I look at how I create my artwork from that point of view. Even if it’s vector art — which has a lot of coldness to it, I think — it all has some meaning to it.”